Written By Chevonne*, Singapore
When I became a Christian at 16, it didn’t take me long to realize that contrary to the teachings of many mainstream pastors, life certainly did not get easier. In fact, mine seemed to get a lot harder.
Three years ago, my relationship with a parent grew painfully cold because of our different worldviews. To escape my feelings of rejection, loss, and helplessness, I turned to binge-eating. Over the next year and a half, I was consumed by bulimia and a general anxiety-riddled relationship with food and body image.
Yet, in the midst of my sin and suffering, God helped me cling to His promises I read in the Bible; that there is now no more condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:1) and incredibly, He loves me. And nothing in all creation will be able to separate me from His love (Romans 8:38-39).
God also gave me godly friends who swung open the doors of their homes to let me into the normalcy of their lives and routines. They were friends I could open up to and trust to point me to my hope in Jesus. Observing their eating habits helped me inch towards normalcy.
But just as I began to turn less to binge-eating as a coping mechanism, the despair I was already feeling intensified and I fell deep into the darkness of clinical depression. Every new dawn brought with it an onslaught of suicidal thoughts, and there were countless days where I felt utterly dysfunctional and bedridden.
When my friends discussed upcoming university deadlines and occasions, it was a ghastly reminder of how this mental illness had rendered me incapacitated. The slightest consideration of the future felt irrational to me, when I was so far from certain that I could even make it to the end of the day.
The Lifesaving Truths of God That Held Me
In the Bible, we see God’s promise that one day, Jesus Christ will come back to this world to restore it, and rid it of the brokenness caused by our rebellion against Him (Romans 8:18-21). Each day, I would beg for Jesus to return, and enquired desperately why He didn’t do so right at that very moment. It felt as though there was no balm in this world that could remotely soothe my pain, and I yearned only for final and eternal rest in God’s new creation.
Many times over, I’d fail to trust that God’s grace was sufficient to sustain me for the day (Philippians 4:19). On one occasion, I even attempted to take my own life. That event left me feeling utterly ashamed and lost, but it humbled me into accepting the fact that I am not hanging on to Jesus today because of my ability to trust God, but simply because God has decided to sustain and preserve me. I am unable to help myself, and it is only by God’s own grace that I have been saved through faith in Jesus.
Somehow, in my most desperate of moments, God has allowed me to feebly treasure this truth—I have been purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
This truth is not based on how I feel. Having experienced the brokenness of my own mind, it became crucial to me that I knew my feelings did not dictate what was true. But rather, that it is God’s Word that tells me what is true about Him, myself, and His world. My life is not my own, and I can trust that He knows what He is doing; that Jesus will give me everything I need to persevere until He calls me home (2 Peter 1:3).
I no longer have to live as a slave to my fears, nor do I need to live in denial of the pain that life in a broken world inevitably brings. Instead, I can face them knowing that the God of all heaven and earth knows and cares for me, and is in complete control.
The Extraordinary, Ordinary Means of God
The past few years have solidified in me the conviction that I need not wait for an “earth-shaking” answer to my prayer for freedom from illness in this life. God has given us His glorious promises in His Word, and opportunities to pray and to be with family in Christ.
Reading the Psalms, I saw cries that reflected my despair and desperation. For example, in Psalm 13:1-2, we see David crying out:
How long, O LORD?
Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
In Psalm 88:16, we read:
Your wrath has swept over me; your dreadful assaults destroy me.
They surround me like a flood all day long; they close in on me together.
You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness.
The honesty of the psalmists before God taught me that it was safe to bring my every thought before my Father, and that it is in fact where my every emotion belonged—in prayer to the sovereign God. My emotions were not meant to be hidden within the instant solutions I had been so accustomed to turn to, but to be lamented in prayerful dependence to my Heavenly Father. Books such as Depression: Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness by Ed Welch and When Darkness Seems My Closest Friend by Mark Meynell also served as helpful handles as I navigated how God’s Word spoke to my depression. All these gave me vocabulary for the way I felt—words to cry out to God amidst the darkness.
Just as He did before, God provided me with family in Christ. These are friends who persevered in praying for me, welcoming me into their homes, providing me with meals, reading and singing God’s truths to me, reminding me of what was true, tutoring me as I struggled in university, and driving and accompanying me to endless hospital and psychologist visits.
They carried my burdens when I felt like I couldn’t take another step forward. They always pointed me back to the shelter and hope I had in Christ. They modeled the love of Christ to me, and I cannot adequately express how life-saving their presence and love has been.
These are the extraordinary, ordinary means by which God preserves His children. Through these, God has enabled me to remember that He is with me in the prolonged battle, and He provides the forgiveness I need for every failure.
Clinging on His Hope
The unequivocal hope of all who trust in Jesus is that we will one day see Him face to face; that He will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Revelation 21:4). I long expectantly for the day that He welcomes me to the home where I truly belong. Even right now, He is with me through every good day and every dark night, till we arrive at that final heavenly shore.
None of us will ever truly understand the experience of each other’s lives and suffering, and that makes living a uniquely lonely experience. But Jesus knows us better than we do, and is personally with us in every moment. Knowing this truth doesn’t change the present reality of pain and suffering, but knowing that I am never alone does fundamentally change the experience of life.
If you, like me, also struggle with loneliness and despair, I hope you’ll know that this invitation of hope in the mercy and grace of Jesus, He gladly and earnestly extends to you too.
*Not the author’s real name.